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The number of Year 10 pupils who smoke every day has dropped, new figures released today show.
Only 3.2 per cent of pupils in the 14- to 15-year-old age group smoked daily last year, compared to 4.1 per cent the year before, Action on Smoking and Health's (ASH) Year 10 smoking survey found.
"It is great to see youth daily smoking is declining again. The previous survey was the first time in the survey's history that they didn't decrease," said ASH director Stephanie Erick.
Maori daily smoking remained higher at 8.5 per cent, but well below the 30.3 per cent from the first survey in 1999.
"We need to be mindful of smoking inequalities and it must be a focus to reduce this as much as possible," Ms Erick said.
Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia said the results were "great news", however, she cautioned there was no room for complacency.
"We must continue to do everything we can through proactive lobbying, cessation support, excise taxes, plain packaging and other legislation to ensure that we send a clear message to tobacco companies," she said.
"We want to rid our country of this product that kills 13 New Zealanders a day and 5000 of us each year. I look forward to the day we reach our goal of becoming a Smokefree Aotearoa-New Zealand by 2025."
The drop in smoking among teenagers could be at least partially linked to the continuing rise in tobacco prices, ASH said.
"Price is obviously a very big deterrent but it is particularly a deterrent for youth smoking," a spokesman said.
"If it's too expensive to buy in the first place then they don't try it as an experiment, and if they don't try it, they don't become hooked and they don't become smokers."